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30 Mar, 2008 00:43

NATO bombs haunt Serbs, 9 years on

This week Serbia marked nine years since the NATO bombings of Yugoslavia dubbed 'humanitarian intervention', which claimed the lives of hundreds of people, most of them civilians. To this day, many remain missing.

Missing Albanians were the official reason for NATO to attack Slobodan Milosovic’s Yugoslavia in 1999. However, few people in the world now recall the 3,000 Serbs whose relatives have lost hope of finding.

Each morning Brakus Strahinja comes to a small office in Kosovska Mitrovica looking for information about his brother who went missing three months after the NATO bombardment. He’s lost hope he could still be alive. But still prays one day he’ll have a body to bury.

“After the Serbs left our village, my brother went back to see how his house was. We don’t know what happened because nobody ever heard from him again. Everybody in the town loved him. He was good to his Albanian and Serbian neighbours. They had no reason to hurt him,” he says.

Dragan Janackovic has a similar story to tell. His father refused to leave his Serb village after all the residents fled after the NATO bombing. He begged him to leave but his father was convinced nothing would happen to him.

“I heard various versions of what happened to my father. One was that he was burnt in one of his houses. Another was that they killed him while he was looking after his cattle. But what I think happened in reality is that one of his neighbours kidnapped and then killed him,” believes Dragan.

The office that deals with missing Serbs from Kosovska Mitrovica is only one man. His brother too has been missing for years. Only his personal motivation – and desperate faith – keeps him going.

“There are 454 unidentified bodies in the morgue in Pristina. We provided DNA samples but they didn’t do anything with them. Nobody knows whose bodies they are. I’m also convinced the Albanians are selling body parts of Serbs who were kidnapped or who’ve gone missing,” says Milorad Trifunovic from Society for the Kidnapped and Missing People from Kosovo.